Mikel Landa moves up in the overall
The third week of the Tour de France serves up some tremendous challenges to the riders with a succession of demanding stages in the Alps. Team Bahrain-McLaren lived up to these challenges with strong performances in the past two days. This allowed Mikel Landa to move up into 5th in the overall standings and the team to move into 3rd in the team classification.
After the second rest day of this year’s Tour de France, Mikel Landa was positioned in 7th in the overall standings, a bit over two minutes off the yellow jersey. The third week of the race started with three tough stages in the Alps. To add to the difficulty each of the stages started at a blistering pace due to the fight for the green jersey. Team Bahrain-McLaren performed strongly after the second rest day, but in stage 16 it chose to let the early attackers go just like the other teams with overall contenders. As a consequence, the group of favorites conceded 16 minutes to the day’s stage winner without any serious late attacks or consequences for the overall standings. This was to change in stage 17 however: With the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Loze that featured in a professional race for the first time and served up some ridiculously steep ramps in the finale, this day amounted to more than 4000 vertical meters of ascending.
Team Bahrain-McLaren opted to resolutely take the lead halfway into this stage on the lower slopes of the Col de la Madeleine. With amazing efforts, Marco Haller and Sonny Colbrelli managed to cut in half the lead of the early attackers. Then it was up to Wout Poels to show that he had recovered from the injuries he had sustained in the opening stage, teaming up with Matej Mohoric. The riders in red, papaya and black continued their pace-making over the top of the first HC climb and led a drastically reduced group of favorites to the foot of the final climb. The team continued to grind out a high pace to the six kilometer to go mark. By then, the group had been reduced to about ten riders, and just like some other overall contenders Mikel Landa was on his own. When the serious attacks came, he lacked the last bit of explosiveness to stay in the wheels of his rivals. Riding the final, ridiculously steep ramps at his own pace, the Basque crossed the finish line in 7th, conceding 1.20 minutes to the stage winner.
After Wednesday’s collectively strong effort Team Bahrain-McLaren opted for completely different tactics for Thursday’s stage 18. Pello Bilbao infiltrated a large group of almost 30 riders that formed early on and he only was to lose touch to the sharp end of the race on the penultimate climb. With Damiano Caruso another rider of the team managed to bridge the gap from the group of favorites to the lead group on his own with an impressive solo effort. On the enormously steep ramps of the climb to the Plateau de Glères, Mikel Landa set off from the group of favorites, and he got support from Caruso on the two last kilometers of the ascent. Still the two got caught by a select group of favorites before the passage of the plateau. In the finale of the stage, Pello Bilbao also dropped back to add to the effort to maximize the gap to some of the overall rivals who had been distanced early on.
Mikel Landa and Damiano Caruso crossed the finish line about two minutes adrift of the stage winner in the group of favorites. And since Adam Yates and Rigoberto Uran lost some considerable time, Mikel Landa moved up to 5th in the overall standings, 3.28 minutes behind the overall leader. As a reward for the cohesive team effort in the Alps, Team Bahrain-McLaren moved up to 3rd in the team standings. This year’s Tour de France ends on Sunday in Paris. After Friday’s transitional stage, the tough individual time trial up to the Planche des Belles Filles will shape the final standings of the race. That place is in good memories with MERIDA BIKES since last year’s stage win by Dylan Teuns.